Unclaimed Millions of Euros in the Initial 40 Days of the Plastic Bottle Deposit and Return System

Millions of Euros Go Unclaimed in the First 40 Days of the Plastic Bottle Deposit and Return Scheme

Since the introduction of the Deposit Return Scheme for plastic beverage bottles and cans, households have either hoarded or discarded containers, leading to millions of euros in unclaimed deposits at participating establishments.

Within the first 40 days of the system’s implementation, a total of €1.2 million in deposits were reimbursed to customers through vouchers distributed via reverse vending machines. However, this amount is only a fraction of the revenue generated during that period, indicating that many shoppers may be holding onto their empty containers until they have a substantial amount to return all at once, or simply disposing of them in recycling or waste bins.

On average, approximately five million beverage bottles and cans are sold in Ireland daily, with most being sold by retail shops required to charge a deposit ranging from 15c to 25c per container based on size. Ossian Smyth, the overseeing minister, estimated that this would result in the daily collection of €1 million in deposits.

Despite this projection, Re-turn, the company behind the scheme, revealed that the daily deposit collection limit had not been met due to the sale of some older stock not subject to the charge.

Although specific figures on the number of deposits charged or waiting to be claimed are not yet available, it is estimated that there may be up to €20 million in unclaimed deposits if half of the beverages sold within the first 40 days triggered the deposit charge.

While the scheme has been in operation for 55 days since its initiation on February 1, the latest data provided by Re-turn only covers up to March 12. During the 40-day period leading up to that date, Re-turn managed to collect almost seven million containers, consisting of 3.4 million plastic bottles and 3.6 million cans. This leaves a significant number of containers, approximately 193 million, still awaiting return or already disposed of.

Consumers who returned containers received a total of €1.2 million in deposit vouchers, but the redemption rate remains unclear. Re-turn anticipates that customers may accumulate empty containers before returning them and may also hold onto vouchers before redeeming them.

While the reverse vending machines transmit data to Re-turn regarding returned containers and issued vouchers, redemption records are kept by the shops. According to Re-turn, the coupons have no expiration date, but they encourage consumers to use them promptly to benefit from the deposit refund.

The company also stated that the scheme is still in its early stages, and it expects rapid evolution and difficulty in establishing trends within the first year. Any unclaimed deposits cannot be retained by merchants or Re-turn and will instead be utilized to support recycling initiatives.

Deposit return schemes are being progressively implemented in all EU countries as part of an effort to minimize the environmental impact of excessive plastic consumption.